I walked past a movie theater today and its marquee was advertising both the regular feature and the Friday night midnight movie, so it read:
The Jane Austen Book Club
Night of the Creeps
That is exactly how the previews for that movie make me feel!
In further blog-related hilarity (I’ve had another visit with the plumber, and this time he brought his camera guy, and when you hear “Sorry, but we may need to adjust the estimate” with a friendly clap on the shoulder, you start desperately searching for hilarity of any kind), I’ve finally had my first (to my knowledge) “Nathan Gunn naked” hit on Google, which seems like sort of an opera blogger's bar mitzvah. I also had “David Adam Moore shirtless”; Moore was Gunn’s replacement as Billy Budd in the Pittsburgh production I saw last May. I guess I’ll know he’s had his big breakthrough moment when the search graduates to “David Adam Moore naked”.
Next up on the opera front is the opening night (I know there are people who call these things “the prima” but I just can’t bring myself to do it; insidery jargon fascinates me, but the implication in using it is that you’re an insider) of Appomattox. On the bus last night I ended up talking to two ushers who had been at a dress rehearsal. I asked what they thought; the verdict was that one would like it if one liked Philip Glass. That’s about as insidery as I’m going to get. So let me talk about Dancing with the Stars, which I stumbled onto last spring several weeks before the finale, and to which I rapidly became addicted. This time around I was ready with my popcorn before the big opening night (the prima, as it were). Unlike a certain popular singing competition (yes, American Idol, I’m staring at you – don’t you ignore me!), it is pleasantly free of nasty undercurrents, and the judges actually say helpful things, as opposed to “I dunno, dawg – it was a little pitchy,” which is probably as helpful to the singer as it is clear to the audience. On Dancing with the Stars, the judges actually give useful, specific technical advice that helps the viewers understand what to look for, things like “you need to keep your shoulders back.” And they will praise whatever they can, even if it’s clearly a desperate reach (the only thing that really bugs me about the show is the audience booing at the slightest hint of criticism – maybe this really is the generation that received trophies just for showing up). Of course, there’s a difference between dealing with desperate unknowns hungry to break into pop music and established celebrities who are larking in a highly specialized art form. Still, in the words of the immortal Swan of Avon, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but tyrannous to use it like a giant. I wish Bruno would tone down some of the Roberto Benigni-style effusions, but the judges usually make astute and even subtle points (again, what a contrast to the paradigmatic trio), as when they told Cameron Mathison that his classically handsome looks created expectations of perfection that worked against his beginner’s level of skill, or when Len told the Cheetah Girl (who initially bugged me but is now winning me over by quantum leaps) not to rely overmuch on her obvious skill at fast and flash. My preference for the constructive, technically clear approach as opposed to snark-and-stab may only be due to the intense tenderheartedness of my nature, however. I just don’t know if I have the emotional strength to deal with reality shows. I hated to see sweet Josie the swimsuit model leave after the first week, and not just because my favorite moment that week was when she said, “I think dancing is like this” and flung her arms out and her partner, who had already wittily described her as “deceptively unfit”, had to suppress the look of panic and horror on his face. (Possible runner-up moment: Jonathan “I’m the perfect gentleman of ballroom” muttering “cameracameracamera” to Marie Osmond, his chatty and easily distracted partner, during the opening pan of the cast – by the way, did anyone have to explain to her what Carrie Ann meant by calling her a “cougar”?) And then this week, continuing the ruthless purge of models, Albert Reed was booted. Like everyone else except Abercrombie cultists, I had to look him up when the cast list was announced. I like to think I don’t make assumptions about people, but I guess the surfer/male model combo did not lead me to expect his good-humored, low-key charm; that plus his dancing skills had me big-time man-crushing on Albert even before his elderly grandmother told him how proud his grandpa would be. Who could resist that? I was also amused by the two women from the audience who were so excited that he danced with an open shirt the first week: Ladies, being a surfer/Abercrombie model pretty much means that taking your shirt off is a major professional skill. Some day you will find out about The Google, and then you can learn all about it. (I was also amused to see that Cameron Mathison was working the open-shirt look the second week. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.) So once again I have to sit the nation down for a stern talking-to: America, just what the hell are you thinking? Do we have to have this conversation after every single election? You boot Albert and leave me with Wayne Newton? Not to be unkind since it’s the way of all flesh, but many of us watch these things on big-screen or even HD TV, and there are just certain people, iconic entertainers though they may be, beloved and worthy human beings though they undoubtedly are, who, um, are not at their scenic best on either big screens or high definition television. Yes, I’m a shallow man. A shallow, shallow man. No, I don’t really have a problem with that. Wayne Newton is also just a really clunky dancer. I realize there’s the Jerry Springer Memorial Spunky Older Guy Who Isn’t Very Good But Goes Farther Than Expected spot, but come on. Though I have to admit, I basically like Wayne, and am only reacting this way because of the Albert thing. And doesn’t Scary Spice need to go practice whatever it was the Spice Girls did for their big, long-awaited, much-anticipated, 38-second-sell-out reunion? But even her “look at me, I’m naughty” brand of faux-outrageousness is winning me over, or at least not causing me active revulsion as it did at first. And I wanted to hate billionaire basketball-team owner Mark Cuban, but I really can’t. That nice billionaire is just trying so darn hard! I think maybe I should always come in on these things towards the end, since the early departures are so painful for me to watch. I will probably get over the Albert thing (but can I ever really trust America’s voting again?) and learn once more to love, laugh, and tune in next week, only to find myself unexpectedly liking someone else who had put me off, and then I have to go through the whole "stages of grieving for reality-show stars who are better off than I'll ever be” thing all over again. All this sympathy for people I was cheerfully looking forward to hating and ridiculing reminds me of the great line from The Rules of the Game: “Everyone has his reasons; that’s the terrible thing about life,” which might be my favorite movie line of all time.